Poulter keeps Europe hopes alive in Ryder Cup
Europe’s Ryder Cup team were rallying behind flag-bearer Ian Poulter ahead of Sunday’s closing Ryder Cup singles as they targeted a historic come-from-behind win.
Never before has a European team rebounded from a 10-6 deficit at the end of the second day to win the trophy, but morale was given a timely boost when they won the final two fourballs in the gathering gloom at Medinah Country Club on Saturday evening.
The final action of the day came from Ryder Cup firebrand Poulter, who downed a 15-footer at 18 to ensure he and world No 1 Rory McIlroy held on to defeat Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson.
Poulter closed with an incredible five straight birdies as McIlroy was reduced to the role of a casual observer.
That win made it three out three for Poulter, half of the European total and once again underlined his passion and drive for matchplay and the Ryder Cup in particular.
A wild card pick for the second time, the 36-year-old Englishman has hammered out one of the finest Ryder Cup records of all time with 11 wins and just three losses in four appearances.
He has never halved a match and has a perfect three wins from three singles which means he will be integral to Europe’s hopes of over-turning the four-point US lead on Sunday.
“It was an incredible finish to what was looking like a very mundane day,” Poulter said.
McIlroy, playing for the first time in the Ryder Cup with a playing partner other that Graeme McDowell, said his birdie on 13 had been the catalyst for what was to follow.
“I could have just walked into the clubhouse at that point. It was the Poults show from there on in, and it was just a joy to watch.”
The last two points apart, there had been little other joy for Europe on the second day of competition in which they dropped a second straight session by 3-1 and then stood at 10-4 down and staring certain defeat straight in the face.
Jose Maria Olazabal was even moved to drop talisman Lee Westwood, who has looked out of sorts all week especially in and around the greens.
Now the Spaniard must try to reshuffle his cards and come up with a singles lineup that can put some early pressure on the Americans as they did to Europe at Brookline, Massachusetts in 1999.
On that occasion, the US side also started the final day singles 10-6 down, but chalked up some early wins and the Europeans folded.
The winning point came from Justin Leonard, playing against Olazabal, the American sinking a monster putt that sparked an infamous invasion of the green by US players and officials before the Spaniard had had the chance to putt.
While never condoning that kind of over-the-top celebration, Sergio Garcia said that what happened that day would be the model to follow.
“You know, I hope that we can make them feel something similar,” he said recalling the heartbreak of that defeat in what was his first Ryder Cup.
“Hopefully we’ll get off to a good start and see how they react, and then we’ll see what happens from there. It would be nice to kind of give it back the way they did it to us in 1999.”